Downtime is a well-known foe of fleets. But when it comes to maintenance, fleets also face a lesser-known threat: underperformance.
Underperformance is when a fleet asset — whether that’s a vehicle, truck, or van, or a component of that vehicle — is not reaching its peak performance. Underperformance also applies to technicians and shops not working at their most efficient. How does this affect fleets and what can they do about it? Braden Pastalaniec, VP of Transportation and Logistics at Uptake, answers these and other frequently asked questions about underperformance.
How Does Underperformance Affect Fleet Maintenance?
Underperformance affects fleet maintenance in two key ways: assets and shop/technician productivity.
From an asset perspective, when a vehicle or component is underperforming, it can be a sign of either underlying maintenance issues or an early warning sign of impending issues. Although those early warning signs may not be causing an immediate need for maintenance, they can cause a bigger issue down the line if they’re not addressed.
“The goal is to keep assets up and running and trying to do so with the lowest total cost and best efficiency. If an asset is underperforming, you’re costing yourself both time and money,” Pastalaniec explained. “We’ve seen examples of well-maintained vehicles operating 3-5% more fuel efficiently than their counterparts — and that creates bottom line savings for fleets.”
■ Shop/Technician Productivity
When a technician — or even an entire shop — is underperforming, it may mean technicians aren’t working as efficiently as possible or technology is limiting their performance. Whether underperformance is due to people or processes, both can result in increased downtime for fleet assets.
Pastalaniec said data can help fleets benchmark performance at the technician or shop level in a way that helps improve diagnostic and turn time. “As we look at all of the maintenance data on the assets and visualize it across the fleet, you start to get an understanding of what you’re spending the most money on in terms of systems and issues causing downtime,” he said. “I can see one shop location versus another and determine why one shop is more efficient than the other. Or, perhaps a few technicians aren’t as efficient as others. The data can help fleets learn why and help them rise to the level of the others.”
Why Is Underperformance a Bigger Threat to Fleets than Downtime?
Pastalaniec argues that underperformance is a bigger threat to fleets than downtime for two reasons: it’s a hidden threat, and it’s one that is a leading indicator of future problems.
“Both downtime and underperformance are challenges, but the thing with underperformance is that it can be harder to identify without the right viewpoint of your data and the right tools,” he said. “It can also lead to larger downstream issues if left untreated, which leads to more of that downtime.”
What Can Fleets Do to Uncover Underperformance?
The key to uncovering underperformance is data. But while most fleets have access to an abundance of data, oftentimes that data is “dirty,” meaning it’s inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent.
For instance, let’s say a fleet has two maintenance shops and technicians in those shops have two different ways of recording information. When technicians use different abbreviations or nomenclature or code a service in a different way, these inconsistencies prevent fleets from accurately comparing data points, which in turn makes it difficult to identify top-level trends. For that reason, fleets must find a way to account for these differences and get an accurate picture of all the data sources available to them.
“It all begins with cleansed and normalized data,” Pastalaniec said. “The beauty of data is it allows you to make informed decisions. But the challenge is it’s usually siloed in a bunch of different places. Finding a way to pull all of that data together and look at it in a singular view allows fleets to identify opportunities that drive cost and time out of their operations.”
Once fleets have cleansed and normalized data, they can benchmark historical data against current data and identify outliers that allow them to make improvements that increase performance across assets and shops.
Some of the metrics fleets can track to identify underperformance include:
● Diagnostic time
● Average life of a part or component
● Operating cost based on years in service
● Maintenance cost and downtime at a system or component level
● Planned vs unplanned maintenance
“As you identify the outliers or opportunities for improvement, you can implement techniques to improve the performance metrics you’re monitoring,” Pastalaniec said. “So, if you learn a technician is taking longer on diagnostic time than they need to, you can implement training and technology to address the issue. Or if a certain component is costing you more than it should, you can put a plan in place to alleviate those problems moving forward.”
What Happens When Fleets Identify and Address Underperformance?
When fleets address underperformance, the outcomes can include increased asset availability, improved operational efficiency, optimization of the parts supply chain, and reduced fuel consumption.
“At the highest level, the ability to track underperformance can cut costs and identify when maintenance is needed before it’s too late,” Pastalaniec said. “Fleets can improve uptime, reduce technician diagnostic time, and ensure they have the right technician at the right time with a bay available and the right part. If you can get that in position preemptively, you increase your ability to turn around assets in a timely and cost-effective manner.”
Specifically, Pastalaniec said Uptake’s data analysis helped one fleet increase asset uptime by 8%. Another fleet decreased technician troubleshooting and diagnostic time by 9%.
And a third fleet saved $500,000 in labor costs by understanding the survival rate of a particular component. Doing so allowed the fleet to push out physical inspections of that component until it got closer to the proper replacement time and shaved 15-20 minutes off every PM in doing so.
“Uncovering underperformance is an area that’s created tangible value for our customer base and helped them identify low hanging fruit that saves millions of dollars right off the bat,” Pastalaniec said.